Landlords are suing Massachusetts over the eviction moratorium

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Massachusetts landlords have filed a legal challenge to the state’s moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Landlords in a federal lawsuit filed this month argue that the pause on evictions that Governor Charlie Baker extended this week though mid-October is unconstitutional, Richard Vetstein, an attorney for property owners, told the Boston Herald on Wednesday.

The defendants are the state and the state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

The moratorium violates the constitutional right to petition the judiciary, the right of free speech under the First Amendment, and the right to just compensation for an unlawful taking of their property under the Fifth Amendment, and it is an unconstitutional impairment of their leases, Vetstein said.

Vetstein represents a nurse who is owed $20,000 in back rent.

“She’s a blue-collar nurse, and is in serious financial difficulty because of this,” Vetstein said. “When a tenant can’t pay, that burden flows down to the landlords.”

The state said it does not comment on pending litigation.

Baker on Wednesday defended the decision to extend the moratorium, saying the issue was compounded by lack of access to the courts.

Under the moratorium, tenants are still obligated to pay rent.

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